Sundance 2023 Day 8 Recap
I watched three more films yesterday and my watchlist is finally starting to dwindle down. I'm still planning on watching Past Lives and Flora and Son over the weekend, but I've now already broken my Sundance viewing record for films watched during a festival. Now let's recap what I saw yesterday: A Little Prayer, Scrapper, and Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls.
A LITTLE PRAYER
The patriarch of a tight-knit family struggles with what to do when he learns that his son is having an affair. Bill (David Strathairn) not only employs his son David (Will Pullen), but he also lets him and his wife Tammy (Jane Levy) live in their guest house on the property. Tammy is loved and revered as their own daughter; she truly has become a member of the family. When Bill suspects that his son hasn't been doing right by Tammy, Bill struggles with whether or not to get involved.
A Little Prayer is a simple family drama with a lot of heart and relatability. In the midst of watching so many experimental oddball films this festival, A Little Prayer's sincerity and straightforwardness felt like a welcome change of pace. There's nothing flashy here and the performances are the star of the film--it must be said that David Strathairn, Jane Levy, and Celia Weston are all exceptional here. How these actors all play off one another here is truly great. There are scenes that I'm still thinking about and will continue to think about. It's a quiet and unassuming little film, but there is a lot of power in it.
After twelve-year-old Georgie (Lola Campbell) loses her mother, she believes she can make it on her own and attempts to do so. When the father she never knew (Harris Dickinson) comes back into the picture to try to be her guardian, she discovers she has a lot of unresolved issues with resentment towards her dad, and the grief of losing her mother.
Scrapper is a sweet film about accepting the life we didn't plan for. I wasn't totally sold on it until its final act (honestly mostly due in part to my very real festival fatigue right now), but in the end, it really won me over and I was feeling all the feels. Lola Campbell and Harris Dickinson are just wonderful here and share really great familial chemistry. Scrapper is a promising debut feature from writer-director Charlotte Regan and I'll be excited to see what she does next.
ONYX THE FORTUITOUS AND THE TALISMAN OF SOULS
Onyx, as he prefers to be called, is a big fan of Occultist Bartok the Great. When he wins a coveted spot to participate in a rare ritual, he believes it to be too good to be true! But he soon discovers that things are not what they seem and that he and the other guests may be in danger. Could he be the chosen one to save them all from impending doom?
Onyx is a horror comedy that unfortunately lacks in the comedic side of things. I saw a lot of comparisons to Beetlejuice beforehand and it's far more a Jared Hess joint than Tim Burton in his prime. It's hard to have a film revolve around a one-note protagonist whose schtick over and over just ends up feeling grating. It feels almost that any time the film is funny that it happened by accident. The plot is fine, and perhaps in the hands of someone with more comedic talents and overall capability, this could have worked. As is though, Onyx is somewhat amusing but pretty forgettable. Enjoyed the Barbara Crampton cameo though!